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Mining in Northwestern Ontario

By John Mason, P. Geo., D. Sc., Project Manager, Mining Services, Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission

Precious metal prices strengthened in 2019, therefore providing direct benefit to New Gold Inc., Harte Gold Corporation, Barrick Gold Corporation, Newmont Goldcorp Inc. and North American Palladium Ltd., and their mines in Northwestern Ontario. As of Aug. 28, the price of gold was $1,542.00 per ounce (U.S.) and palladium was $1,441.00 per ounce (U.S.).

Robust gold prices provide a level of confidence with respect to future mine development including: Greenstone Gold’s Hardrock Mine, Treasury Metal’s Goliath Project, Pure Gold’s Madsen Mine, Rubicon’s Phoenix Project and First Mining Gold’s Springpole Lake Project.

Greenstone Gold (Centerra Gold and Premier Gold) have $54 million budgeted for 2019 expenditures at the Hardrock Mine, including detailed engineering, infill drilling, indigenous consultation, permitting, project support and property acquisition. If all timelines are met, Greenstone Gold states that a production decision could be made in late 2019, with construction leading to production by 2021. Openpit mine life is 15 years, with underground resources (future shaft) significant as well.

Treasury Metals received Federal EA approval in August for the Goliath Deposit, located east of Dryden. Detailed engineering, community consultation and permit(s) acquisitions are in progress. A business decision on construction could then be made by the end of 2019; if that decision is positive, mine and mill construction could begin in 2020. Mine life (open-pit and underground) is 13 years. Down hole IP and fieldwork east of the deposit are underway as well.

Pure Gold completed their Feasibility Study for the Madsen Mine project (located west of Red Lake) in early 2019. A decision to proceed to construction was made following financing (August). Current gold resources suggest a 14-year mine line. In Q3, Wabauskang First Nation and Lac Seul First Nation signed a Project Agreement with Pure Gold. Madsen will be Northwestern Ontario’s next gold producer.

Rubicon Minerals Corporation released a positive Preliminary Economic Assessment (PEA) for the Phoenix Gold Project, Red Lake. Life of Mine would be 6.2 years with approximately 500,000 ounces of gold produced.

First Mining Gold continues work with the federal government on the Environmental Assessment (EA) for the Springpole Lake Gold Deposit, located east of Red Lake. The request to Ontario for all weather road access started in 2018.

Lithium remains a sought after commodity globally for high temperature glass and electric vehicle battery applications: Exploration projects by Avalon Advanced Materials (north of Kenora), Frontier Lithium (north of Red Lake), Ardiden (northeast of Armstrong) and Rock Tech Lithium (south of Beardmore) have lithium deposits totalling approximately 25 million tonnes that potentially can assist to address EV demand five years out. The global lithium industry is shifting toward hard rock deposits, as opposed to brines, making the Northwestern Ontario deposits extremely attractive.

Zenyatta Ventures Ltd. (Zen Graphene Solutions) completed a bulk sampling program on the Albany Graphite Deposit located proximal to Constance Lake First Nation and Hearst. Nine-hundred ninety tonnes of ore was drill extracted by reverse circulation drilling, which was then refined by SGS Laboratories to 99.8 per cent pure “graphene pre-cursor material”. The final product will then be available for customer testing, with the graphene market being the priority.

Superior Lake Resources will reopen the Winston Lake- Pick Lake Mine Zinc Mine located north of Schreiber. Potential production is forecast, by the company, to commence within three years. Two million tonnes of 15 per cent zinc ore will feed a 1,000-tonne-per-day mill, for eight years.

North American Palladium is investing over $20 million in mineral exploration at the Lac des Iles Mine and Sunday Lake for 2019. Workforce growth is forecast at 19 per cent over the next three years as Lac des Iles expands to become one of Canada’s largest underground mines.

Newmont Goldcorp’s Musselwhite Mine production has been severely impacted by an underground fire in March. Aggressive exploration continues. Underground mine rebuild is well underway.

Generation Mining has acquired the Sibanye-Stillwater Marathon palladium-copper deposit.

Benton Resources has acquired the Thunder Bay North and Escape Lake palladium deposits, located north of Thunder Bay.

New Gold Inc.-Rainy River produced 66,000 ounces of gold in Q2 and launched an exploration program on the Intrepid North area.

Mineral exploration dollars are elusive on many fronts. Bucking that trend is Great Bear Resources, 2019 NWOPA recipient of the Bernie Schneiders Discovery of the Year Award, who have embarked on a 90,000-metre drill program on the Dixie Lake gold project, located southeast of Red Lake.